Hyde Park on Hudson: Bill Murray Is a Fine FDR. Pity About the Movie

It's dispiriting that a film about the romantic life of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who cultivated a small coterie of mistresses, should exhibit so little interest in what so engaged its hero: the actual women. Instead, Hyde Park quickly introduces us (and FDR) to the president's distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney), and then races to a sudden hookup that takes a firm stance on the question of whether our polio-stricken 32nd president could take a firm stance. After that, Daisy—our narrator and ostensibly the story's center—is left to haunt the edges of the film. Fortunately, FDR is played by Bill Murray, supreme in his rumpled charisma: one beloved man of preternatural self- possession deploying everything likable within himself in order to embody another. Murray is almost enough to recommend Hyde Park, especially as he toys with his houseguests, King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), characters who are to each December's award-season movies what inflatable Snoopys and Spider-Men are to November's Thanks-giving parade. The royals want Roosevelt to pledge aid in the coming war; Roosevelt wants to talk to a king man-to-man. And Daisy—well, maybe we'll discover what she wants in some DVD extras, as it's certainly not in the movie. We see her hang about the house with the help while smiling timorously just outside great dinners and world-changing conferences, ready to pop into a scene if the president or the filmmakers happen to think of her. There's a children's book, Ben and Me, narrated by a mouse who lived in Ben Franklin's pocket; this mouse doles out happy endings.

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